Some years ago, I was privileged to be invited inside Sally B, which is currently the only B17 WW2 bomber still flying in Europe. I also got to meet Elly Sallingboe, who is the owner/operator of Sally B. She is a delightful lady and also a no-nonsense person. She'd have to be to be able to keep Sally B in the air.
Sally B flypast at Flying Legends
Elly and the dedicated team of people have kept Sally B in the air for 45 years. The B17 was originally bought in 1975 by businessman Ted White, who was Elly's long time companion. He named the aircraft Sally B after Elly and his only aim was to keep the aircraft flying in memory of the thousands of American crews who fought and died during WW2.
Sally B with the Norwegian Flight Mustang "Sharknose"
Tragically, Ted was killed while flying his AT6 in Malta in 1982. His aircraft had a yellow and black chequered engine cowling and this is the reason Sally B has the right-hand inner engine cowling with the same chequered pattern.
Some of the Sally B support team with Elly (centre)
Somehow, Elly and a team of people picked up the pieces and determined to keep Ted's memory and hopes alive and has done so ever since. She gets no support from any outside funds and the only way to keep Sally B flying is to have a Sally B supporters club.
Club members lining up to enter Sally B
Anyone with a light aircraft will know that to keep it flying is a monumental costly task, but just imagine just how much a 25,000kg vintage aircraft with four engines must cost… To overcome these costs has been a nightmare for Elly over the years but the public support for Sally B has been wonderful. Thanks to the support of thousands of likeminded individuals worldwide, Sally B is still able to fly and entertain people at air shows in and around Europe. One can join the supporters club by going to www.sallyb.org.uk/join-us.htm
The quite roomy cockpit with two sets of controls
Looking out the navigator's window at the two port engines… club members examine one of the waste guns Note how big the space is
In 2006, I contacted Elly and asked if it would be possible to do an article on Sally B. Her immediate reaction was "Yes please". So in July that year, I introduced myself to her at Flying Legends and she took me along to the support team manning the consumables kiosk. Andy Jackson was tasked to take me out to Sally B and I climbed aboard for some photography of the aircraft. As part of joining the supporters club, one gets to climb on board Sally B and have a look around the inside of the aircraft. People are not allowed into the cockpit for obvious reasons (especially on flying days) but as I had special permission and Andy as my guide, I was able to clamber into the cockpit. For a WW2 aircraft, I found it quite roomy compared to other bomber aircraft of that era. I think of the B25 which is pretty cramped. I was also able to climb into the bomb aimers position and could only imagine flying over Berlin for a bombing run, up front.
Andy Jackson at the navigator's position keeping an eye on me
View from the nose and bomb aimers position
As mentioned, the costs to keep her flying are astronomical. Recently the aircraft had to have an engine change and the cost of the new engine was enormous - add to that the cost the refurbing two other engines and you have a huge bill. However, it is for a great cause and one hopes the funds will be found.
Sally B taxing past to line ups on the runway at Duxford displaying her nose art
As of March, this year (2020), all work has been suspended due to Covid19 pandemic. In a heartfelt communication on the website (www.sallyb.org.uk
) Elly says the aircraft is safely hangered and they await better times. For sure, there will be very little flying this year due to this pandemic. However, maintenance work is almost completed and once the pandemic passes, Sally B will be back in the air.
Sally B banking after flying past the end of the runway
For sure, Flying Legends would not be the same without Sally B. Long live this beautiful aircraft, keep the people that maintain and fly her safe.